Teen Fiction

On Research

Posted on April 17, 2010. Filed under: Books, Historical Fiction, Teen Fiction | Tags: , , , , |

I’m reading a few books recently that I picked up for the sole purpose of doing research. I’ll be honest. These are books that interest me on a simple reading level, but they’re also books that are apparently by authors who do very well in the Young Adult audience.

So what books am I reading? Well I’ll tell you.

I’ve finished reading two of the four that I have. The first book I picked up was titled The Luxe by Anna Godbersen. I have plans to do a separate post about this book because I want to analyze it a little more thoroughly. Godbersen’s series has four books, all of which detail life in early 20th century, rich Manhattan. Her characters are mainly young women whose lives seem charmed on the surface, but of course, there are facets to these women that can only be explored by reading the rest of the story.

Godbersen is touted as being on the New York Times bestseller list for her works, so I was looking forward to a treat. I wasn’t disappointed. With my love of historical fiction, hers was a perfect YA series to get into.

The second author I looked into was Sarah Dessen, another popular YA writer. I picked up two of her books and finished reading Just Listen a few days ago. Dessen writes contemporary fiction about girls who have problems. Simple enough, but Dessen’s writing style and the stories she weaves are full of controversy and intrigue enough to make even the youngest of readers sink their teeth into the novels.

I’ve actually really enjoyed Dessen’s stories even if I’m not in the target audience for them. She’s an excellent author.

So why do I tell you this?

Because I’m doing research for my own story. No, I didn’t pick up my genre. No, I’m not planning to find a good fantasy story for young adults to read anytime soon. The reason I’m not doing that is because I want to get a feel for my audience and not my genre.

I know it sounds weird, but bear with me. My purpose is simply to find out what it is young adults are reading. I want to see how writers to this audience change their tones or POVs to appeal to their readers. I want to read between the lines of the story and see the development of plot, the style, and the language that makes these books bestsellers.

If I were to pick up a YA fantasy novel, I know I’d end up focusing on the fantasy aspects and not on the language and other items that brand the story as targeted to younger readers. So I thought this would be a step in the right direction for me. I also picked up a how-to book on writing young adult fiction that sells.

What do you think? Overkill or heading in the right direction? I’m actually learning quite a bit as I enjoy these stories. It’s been an interesting journey in research.

All right, well, I’ve got to get ready for work now, so I’ll have to end this. I hope you’re all doing well, and I have news to report before I finish: I didn’t get the Target job. I’m still up in the air on Amazon, and I heard back about a South Korean ESL teaching position that would, in theory, begin on May 10. I’m not entirely sure how that’s going to work, but I’ll keep you updated!

I hope you all have wonderful Saturdays, and I am going to go out tonight and enjoy some well-deserved sushi with a coworker. What are your weekend plans?


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The Hepburn Look

Posted on March 27, 2010. Filed under: Books, Historical Fiction, Musings, Teen Fiction | Tags: , , , |

I know it’s not very writing related, but I thought I’d share two pictures from today. As I mentioned yesterday, I went out with my mother and her friends today. It was, as usual, inspired. Everything my mother and her friends do is enough to make me laugh.

But let me say that my dress wasn’t quite the same as Audrey Hepburn’s. Hers was the famous boatneck, floor-length gown that made the little black dress a household item for women of all ages. My hair also wasn’t quite the same as dear Audrey’s either. Though I did try.

For what it’s worth, I made do with what I had. I’ll let you decide if the outfit made me Hepburn-esque enough to pass muster or not.

The Real Audrey Hepburn

My Version of Audrey Hepburn

She was beautiful, wasn’t she? I love the little touches, from the diamond tiara to the extravagant necklace to the cigarette holder. It’s the height of class, elegance, and grace.

Perhaps one of the best parts of her attire was her ability to accentuate the right assets. I know I’ve ranted about modesty before, but I have to admit that Audrey Hepburn puts most of the mavens of today’s underdressed, anorexic society to shame. And she exudes mystery to boot.

I’m biased, but I think she’s beautiful.

So in comparison, we have my version of the Hepburn do. I had my mother help with my hair, and while it has the annoying tendency of not staying in place, today it did quite well.

You’ll notice I even got the black elbow-length gloves and the classic large sunglasses; though I already had that pair.

I had a lot of fun putting together my Audrey Hepburn look, and Lucille was thrilled with the effect. I did get told that I was only hanging out with my mother’s friends because they made me look good, but it was all in good fun.

My Hepburn Impression

So what do you think? Do I make a passable imitation of the classic?

Ah, and I also wanted to mention that I’m doing research for my novel. (This does tie-in, I promise.) I picked my way through Borders the other evening and found myself in the YA section. It’s a little appalling how many vampire fiction stories are out there now. I blame Stephenie Meyer.

Even so, I did find a bit of historical fiction that was too much to resist. It’s a series by an author I haven’t heard of, and it starts with the novel The Luxe. Anna Godbersen’s first novel is a tale of 1899 high society ladies and the intrigue their affairs spark. I’d seen it before but didn’t think much of it till I started to look at it again the other day. My love of historical fiction is simply too much to resist sometimes, so I purchased the first novel.

I love high society even if I’m not a part of it. And The Luxe is full of all the things I’ve always been fascinated by: high class women marrying for money and prestige, young girls finding their way into shady situations with even seedier men, old biddies gossiping about the young whipper-snappers, and of course, the affairs these ladies have with men of all ages, classes, and backgrounds. So far it’s been an enjoyable read, and I’m already embroiled in the conflict of the main characters.

I said there was a tie-in. It’s vague, but it’s there. Audrey Hepburn is my definition of high class. She would have easily fit in as one of New York’s old-school debutantes. Perhaps she really was one; I don’t know.

Either way, that’s the post for the day. Let me know what you think about my Hepburn looks. I had a lot of fun today. What did you do for your Saturday?


P.S. If you want to see the full-size images of my Hepburn looks, click on the photos and then click on them again when the link pops up.

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Follow the Genre, Honey!

Posted on February 1, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, Teen Fiction, Vampire Fiction | Tags: , , , , , |

I admit; I’m not a published fiction author. I may write the occasional fanfic or short story in my free time. And, yes, I finished NaNoWriMo last year, so technically I’ve written at least 50,000 words of fiction.

But since I’m not actually published, I’ll just go ahead and admit to not being the expert. However, I’ve read a lot over the course of my 23 years, and I’d say that gives me some power to express my opinion, whether people like it or not. Of course, I’m also fairly diplomatic. So I’ll just start by saying that I refuse to bash or rant on any book unfairly. Most likely I’ll just point out discrepancies and leave it at that.

With that in mind, I started off the New Year by reading a new series that I originally told myself I’d never read. Good friends convinced me I should try it out to see why it was so popular. So I’ve been reading the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer.

In all honesty, at this point, who hasn’t been affected by this breakthrough novel that crashed a whole genre of writing?

Note that I don’t mean she killed a genre. She seems to be the kind of author who takes a story idea, a genre, and some mis-matched concepts and flies into the realm of said genre, doing a crash-landing of epic proportions. The thing is: this particular crash-landing is in the same vein as that of the animals in the movie Madagascar, who instantly became celebrities due to their abilities to scare off the dangerous predators that threatened the way of life of a defenseless habitat.

That’s my view on Twilight. Meyer took a genre that’s fairly well represented down through the classics (vampire fiction), married it to a more culturally popular genre (teen fiction), and twisted both genres into a coupling that both instantly attracted readers and automatically repelled fans of the genre.

Why is this a big deal?

Personally, I’m a fan of following genre conventions in writing. There are several reasons for this, but really the big one is simple. Genres work. Think of how many women read romances in a year. Romances work because they have patented guidelines, give away just enough description, go just far enough to attract the readers and get them addicted to the genre. They pant for the thrill, the danger, the romance, the excitement and go after it like a deer to water.

Cue intro to Meyer’s world. Vampirism is an old genre. I don’t know that you can technically call it a genre, but I’m doing that now. In fact, some of the history of vampires goes all the way back to Genesis, if you can believe it.

Stephenie Meyer's Vampires

Edward Cullen - Meyer's Vampire

Different cultures have different portrayals of vampires, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that vampires began to be serialized in books and stories that would live on after their authors’ deaths. Perhaps it’s for this reason that I think we should look more to the historical depictions of vampires rather than Meyer’s. Vampires looked very different than her bright, sparkling Edward Cullen and the rest of the beautiful Cullen family.

At first, what I read annoyed me. I won’t go into details about my opinion of the plot or Meyer’s style; that’s for another blog. But reading the ways in which she twisted vampirism into something sweet, innocent, and easy to swallow so that her readers would appreciate it was annoying. I know it’s teen fiction, but in this day and age, teenagers have seen a lot more and know what violence, death, destruction, and depression look like.

I haven’t finished reading Breaking Dawn yet. I’m a little over 400 pages into it. This is, by far, Meyer’s best work of genre-bending yet. My eyes nearly popped out of my head at the beginning of the book, and I haven’t managed to get over the sudden transformation from “tame vampirism” to “half-vampire child’s birth overshadowed by sudden werewolf imprinting on said child.”

This boggles my mind.

Author of "Dracula"

Bram Stoker - Author of the Gothic novel "Dracula"

All I can say, after reading as much as I have is that I would prefer Meyer’s next series of books not shatter the traditions of fiction writing quite so profoundly. I may not be a vampire fan, but you can’t escape the lore and legend surrounding these creatures of the night. Meyer’s depiction of day-walking, animal-hunting, sun-sparkling, compassionate, bloodlust-resisting, invincible vampires sends all those former depictions crashing to the dust.

Bram Stoker would roll over in his grave to read such a thing.

In short, my position on the Twilight Saga is simple: next time, follow the genre, honey!


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